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Monday, December 22, 2014         

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Big Isle police arrest man in 1,300-acre brush fire

By Rob Shikina

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Big Island police have arrested a 31-year-old Papaikou man in connection with a 1,300-acre brush fire that has closed Saddle Road since Sunday and drawn firefighters from three islands.

Police said the man was found nearby after firefighters arrived to fight the blaze at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday. He was taken to Hilo Medical Center for treatment and released, then arrested Monday on suspicion of first-degree arson.

Police released him yesterday morning, pending investigation.

The fire began Sunday near Mauna Kea State park. No structures were threatened and no one has been injured, said Mike Egami, spokesman for the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii.

As of 11 a.m. yesterday, fire officials revised the size of the fire from 2,000 acres to 1,300 and determined the blaze was about 55 percent contained, Egami said.

Yesterday, 85 firefighters were on the ground, including 14 state firefighters from Maui, five from Schofield Barracks and 66 state and federal firefighters from the Big Island, Egami said.

Six helicopters helped in the blaze, including two Hawaii Army National Guard Black Hawks, one Marine helicopter from Kaneohe and three contractors.

Saddle Road was closed from the 8-mile marker on the Hilo side to the Highway 190 junction on the Kona side, about 45 miles away.

Egami said Civil Defense was looking at reopening Saddle Road this morning.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call acting Lt. Reed Mahuna at 961-2252 or, to remain anonymous, call CrimeStoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona.






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